Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Riedls

A few funny pics from Christmas Day at the Riedl household...

We made a snowman since it was a White Christmas in Portland:

The best Christmas cookie I made this year:

Don't eat the yellow snow! Ho ho ho!!! Jen didn't like this cookie so much. I guess I'll be the one eating it! Yum!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Dance of Headship

The husband is the head of the wife. --Ephesians 5:23a

Headship in a marriage covenant is often misunderstood. Many people see the verse above and are immediately turned off. It is unfortunate because these words are very important when read in context. Here is the full verse, along with a similar one:

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. --Ephesians 5:23

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. --1 Corinthians 11:3

Clearly, the husband and the wife are both under some type of leadership. The wife is being led by her husband, her husband is being led by Jesus, and Jesus is being led by God the Father. Many women are upset that Scripture tells them to be led by their husbands for one of two reasons: 1) They want to lead instead of being led, or 2) They want to make every decision together, 50/50, completely equally.

We came across this issue in my Family and Gender Seminar course in college. I proposed an analogy that helped some people understand the roles that God calls husbands and wives to: dancing.

The man is the leader on the dance floor and the woman follows the man step for step. The man is responsible for any mistakes that occur in the dance routine (just ask any professional male dancer and he'll apologize even if the woman makes a mistake when it is clearly her fault) but he takes responsibility for the mistake because he is the one that should be leading her in the correct way. This does not mean that she does not have her own responsibility to do her part in the dance, it is just a different responsibility. It's like the responsibility that completes the "leader/follower" diadic interaction. They are both equal because they are just two people dancing, but in order for it to work, one needs to lead and one needs to follow. There can't be two leaders or two followers. That's what makes it an efficient interaction by avoiding conflict and confusion.

The problems occur when they do not work together. If the woman does not want to follow the leader, then the dance doesn't work and it looks ugly. The same thing happens if the man leads the woman in a way that she doesn't want to follow. Communication and compromise between the two dancers is the key to dancing successfully.

They both need each other and it is a balanced relationship because it takes each one and their contributions in order for the dance to become a beautiful work of art. The same thing occurs in marriage: If one does not lead and one does not follow, then confusion and conflict occurs when it doesn't have to.

There will always be inequality no matter how hard we try to make things equal. One person will always be more controlling or more of a "leader" in a relationship, so why not use that to an advantage? We can see that this "inequality" in dancing (one is a leader and one is a follower) can be used successfully in order to make something beautiful. However, if this inequality is abused (and in marriage it too often is) it can cause obvious problems in the interaction, resulting in dancing that looks horrible (as does the marriage).

God created us differently in order for us to use our unique attributes in different ways. In God, there is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and each of them are equal. Yet, they each have unique attributes and also are all One at the same time. Marriage is very similar: Christ, the husband, and the wife all must be united together in God's perfect leadership structure. In order for it to succeed, however, husbands and wives must lovingly desire to fill our God-given roles with humility, sacrifice, and patience. After all, dancing is hard work! So is marriage.

Photo from

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I Have Poland Syndrome

Most of my friends already know of my birth defect. Even some of the guys I shared my college dorm with called me Nemo because of my "lucky fin." I have had lots of laughs around the topic of my dead sexy deformed body, but I realized that I have never written about it on my blog. Well, here you go: I hope you are encouraged and learn something new.

There is very little known about Poland Syndrome. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, it is a rare birth defect named after Alfred Poland. It is estimated to affect between 1-in-10,000 and 1-in-100,000 births. The cause is unknown, but "most evidence supports the idea that something happens during the 6th week of fetal development," possibly an interruption of the embryonic blood supply, stinting growth in a certain area.

This congenital deformity is characterized by many features, but here I will list the ones that specifically apply to me:
  • Absent pectoral muscle
  • Brachydactyly (short fingers)
  • Humerus, radius, ulna bones abnormal
  • Upper limb asymmetry
Based on pictures I have seen of other people online and looking at the few other frequent features, it seems to me that I have a relatively mild case. I am missing my right pectoral muscle, my right arm bones don't rotate properly, my right arm is noticeably smaller, and my right hand is abnormally small with some crooked, short fingers. However, I can still do most normal physical activities that others can do.

I am very physically athletic and use my arm as if it is normal. I play sports, do push-ups, pull-ups, handstands, and even back handsprings. I have found that other muscles compensate for my missing pectoral, allowing me to have enough strength to perform basic activities. However, there is a significant lack of strength in my right arm muscles. I find myself using my left arm a lot more when maxing out on push-ups or pull-ups.

One of the most fascinating things is that I am predominately right-handed. However, because of the crooked fingers and the slower responsiveness of my right hand, I switched over and learned to write with my left hand. I still kick with my right foot and often still carry bags with my right arm because it feels natural to me. But because my left arm is stronger, I usually carry heavy items on that side.

Very few people notice it when my shirt is on. I used to be nervous to take off my shirt in public. For example, when playing a fun game of ultimate frisbee, I would be bothered if someone declared, "Okay let's make two teams--shirts versus skins," and hope that I got on the shirts team. But that was years ago. Now I am comfortable taking off my shirt because adults don't tease the way that kids do. Most people are fascinated with it.

I have come to appreciate my deformity. It's funny saying that because it doesn't really seem like a deformity to me. I am who I am. Everyone is different. Some people have big ears, some people are bald, some people are big, some are small, and some people are missing their pectoral muscle. Not a big deal to me.

What makes me sad is when people are ashamed of their Poland Syndrome. There is one guy I found online that hates his deformity so much that he had tattoos put over 98% of his body to cover it. In one article I read, he said that he feels more valuable and special because of the tattoos. He also said he got the tattoos in order to hate his body less. Such a sad story.

I believe that God made me this way for a reason. I am humbled every day when I look into the mirror and am reminded of what's really important: our life mission. One day our bodies will waste away and return to the dust of the fields. How do we want to be remembered? How will God remember our lives on the earth? These little physical issues in my life are nothing. They are worthless in the grand scheme of things. So, why take my body so seriously? Who cares what other people think of my deformed body? Who cares if I can't look like those ripped underwear models? God cares about my heart. What I want to do with my life is use it to worship and honor the Lord of all Creation ... no matter if it's perfect or if it's deformed.

Absent pectoral muscle is the
most common deformity in PS

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